APC Must Come To Equity With Clean Hands By Hannatu Musawa
As a law student, I was always very fascinated with the legal maxims which were used to show established principles or propositions. I liked maxims because I saw them as an instrument for positively applying the requirements of integrity and utmost good faith.
The essence of maxims such as “Equity looks to the intent rather than the form”, “Equity looks on that as done which ought to be done”, and “Equity does not aid a party at fault” is to serve as a flexible principle aimed at achieving justice for both sides in every case. But my favourite maxim by far has got to be, “He who comes to equity must come with clean hands.” What makes this particular maxim so interesting to me is that it bestows on a party a voluntary dictum that blocks the court of equity to one that has been soiled with bad faith in regards to the matter in which one seeks relief. This guiding doctrine can be applied in any situation in life to further the cause of justice and fair play. Once applied, one can hardly go wrong.
A perfect scenario to benefit from the equitable duty imposed by this principle is the opposition politics that is currently playing out in Nigeria. As the main opposition party embarks on putting its substantive foundation in place, the code of fairness and equity in its internal conduct and the way it responds to its members must be embraced. The one complaint that every opposition party in Nigeria has always had against the ruling party during elections is the party’s lack of internal and external democracy. However, if the principle and standard of fairness is what the opposition parties expect from the PDP in the 2015 elections, then the opposition itself has got to be seen to observe and uphold the very same tenet and standard.
Last year, when the hopes and efforts of the vast majority of Nigerians crystalized into the APC, it provided the best conduit for the change that people were so desperate for. Apart from the less-than-satisfactory performance over the last 15 years, another factor that disenfranchised a good number of the electorate against the PDP was the vehement way that the ruling party was thought to bulldoze its way into power at every general election. It seemed as if, with wanton abandon, every four years the candidates of the PDP, validly or invalidly, would be foisted upon us. No matter how much the opposition campaigned or the enthusiasm of its supporters, PDP always managed to be declared winners with seemingly little effort.
And right up until the recent formation of the APC, there has always been the understanding that the opposition parties were always the underdogs with the herculean task of succeeding in taking power at the centre. APC’s formation precipitously galvanized all those who feared that the political landscape of Nigeria had morphed into a one-party state. As one watches the party grow, one can see that the APC brings to the table an essentially distinctive and, in every respect, most potent challenge to the ruling party we have seen yet. With the general elections less than a year away, the APC is, in theory, well-positioned to become the most important political force over the coming year.
Another major hurdle, of which PDP, APC and all the former legacy parties have fallen victim to, are party leaders who suffer from a syndrome that makes it very difficult for them to rein in their individual ambitions: leaders who have recycled their aspirations election after election, year after year; and those that have been in power since the creation of man continue failing to recognize that their constant and inordinate ambition has been the greatest factor in creating an obstruction for the opposition. Such leaders and those who double as rulers and go all-out in the art of imposition of candidates have got to be discouraged. The party has to dissociate itself from the ugly culture where leaders behave as if contesting for elections and ruling Nigeria is their own personal birthright and individual inheritance. There is not one person in this country that has the greater right, above and beyond everyone else, to be the uncontested, sole aspirant
to present themselves as the only candidate in the presidential election or any other position for that matter. Of this, the APC must take notice very seriously!
If the APC makes the dire mistake of imposing candidates at every level, especially at the presidential level, it will be in grave danger of diminishing any advantage it may presently have. Furthermore, the majority of its members have already begun protesting against the whimsical declaration of predetermined winners of the APC primaries. Let’s make no mistake: the necessary sacrifices of forgoing certain ambitions of specific polarizing party members have got to be made, albeit in a democratic manner.
For APC, when the story of its outing in the 2015 election is eventually told, five vital elements will likely stand out: the combination of nationally acceptable candidates to carry the presidential and vice-presidential tickets, the strategy and intelligence, bar sentiment used to employ the presidential and vice-presidential candidates, the validity of the process exercised to produce those candidates, the impartial platform provided for the emergence of other candidates at every level, and the extent that the party is prepared to go in order to ensure that there is internal democracy in its entire conduct. It will be upon these five scenarios that APC will make it or break it come 2015.
The coming months will be crucial for APC to prove to Nigerians that the party really is a viable alternative to the PDP. As long as the party lives, eats and breathes justice; as long as party decisions aren’t made in the interest of unfairly erecting structures of patronage around preselected candidates; as long as the party can exhibit practice of internal democracy at the highest level, then, it has a real fighting chance of success come 2015. However, anything short of that, any conduct that compromises the integrity of internal democracy, will perhaps be the cause for the formidable-forming wall of the APC to come tumbling down. And it certainly may just be the prompt for those of us who, for over a decade, have toiled tirelessly to ensure a higher standard in the opposition landscape to begin a journey of disbelief.
As a barrister practising law, I see “He who comes to equity must come with clean hands” as far more than a mere banality. It is a principle that I apply in my own life and one that I expect my party to apply in its internal conduct. If the APC fails to do so and is confronted with a PDP and INEC that challenge it with their own usual brand of soiled hands in 2015, then, we have no right to complain or protest by virtue of natural reason… Fact will be, we cannot go to equity if we don’t go with clean hands!
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